Retail Analytics and IoT: 7 Ways Your Smart Equipment Gives You Great Data

Data, data everywhere - especially for those with easy access and the ability to act. Winning businesses know what analytics actually matter. They don't waste energy tracking the wrong metrics.

Take retailers.

According to Fortune Business Insights, the market for retail analytics is expected to surpass 18 billion dollars by 2028. In large part, this number is influenced by AI, machine learning, and the 'Internet of Things' (IoT) in retail.

Given these innovations, retailers have more data than ever at their fingertips. The bad news? More data can be overwhelming, especially to a majority of business owners that don't use the data they have now.

But here's the good news: Most IoT data can be tracked and shared automatically - which means less digging for those key insights.

What to look for in retail analytics

Some data is ubiquitous. Take sales metrics and customer data, which matters to every business on the planet.

But for retailers, smart technologies can offer additional insights. For example:

With the rise of unattended micro markets, vending machines, smart lockers, and self-help kiosks, retailers can easily learn more about their smart device, how customers are interacting with it, and what those interactions mean to the bottom line.

Here are 7 ways IoT devices are changing the face of data analytics for retail businesses.

1. Real-time inventory management

Cooking store manager looks at retail analytics on a tablet device

Inventory challenges are nothing new for retailers. Inefficiencies, poor visibility, and simple human error can happen even at the best-run businesses.

To stay competitive, most retailers have already moved beyond manual inventory management. They perform regular inventory audits, work to get their data in one place (sometimes easier said than done), and they increasingly implement AI and IoT innovations that track inventory in real time.

How is IoT helping retailers?

Depending on the retailer, IoT innovations like Radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags and Smart Shelves are investments that pay big dividends. By attaching RFID tags to products, retailers can know exactly where goods are now and when it's time to restock. Built-in sensors on Smart Shelves can automatically monitor inventory and can even re-order when stock is low.

Better yet, smart equipment can reduce storage and distribution inefficiency, letting managers know when supply chain delays occur. IoT can also track expiration dates on sensitive products (pharmacy or grocery items) to prevent waste.

Additionally, retailers can integrate IoT analytics into their ERP system, making inventory management even more accurate and painless.

Need cellular connectivity for your smart device? Learn more here.

2. Enhanced store efficiency

IoT devices can also help stores run more efficiently and create a more positive shopping experience. Here are a few examples.

Information kiosks and other digital signs - These smart devices showcase product, pricing, and store layout information on a digital display. Both types of devices can update shoppers in real time, display relevant content by season or shopper demographic, advertise popular products to increase sales - and generally create a more streamlined shopping experience.

Smart carts/baskets - IoT-equipped baskets and carts automatically track products as shoppers place them inside. This technology also makes it easy for customers to review items, get additional product recommendations, and reduce time spent checking out.

Plus, smart data from this equipment can help optimize store layout and placement of retail products.

Self-serve and checkout kiosks - Depending on the size and goals of the retailer, checkout kiosks may be the right investment to reduce labor costs and serve more customers. Kiosks can help reduce bottlenecks and wait times, particularly during peak hours.

Queue management: Even without investing in multiple self-serve kiosks, smaller retailers can use queue management systems to monitor checkout lines. During peak periods - or at other times when lines are excessive - IoT sensors alert managers to open more registers.

And of course, retailers can receive game-changing data insights from these technologies.

3. Improved supply chain visibility

Supply chain problems are nothing new. But as labor shortages and rising costs remain a concern, retailers are feeling the pinch - and are increasingly turning to IoT-enabled technologies for solutions.

For example, an unattended micro market relies exclusively on automation for real-time visibility into its supply chain, with delivery tracking, order optimization, and data on supplier performance.

But traditional retailers also benefit.

Supply chain tracking - With more IoT devices and sensors in shipping containers, and - depending on the retailer - even attached to individual products, the journey from manufacturer to store is relatively easy to track. Most retailers can use smart devices to better anticipate delays, simplify logistics, and adjust inventory accordingly. This is the data that makes a difference.

Route optimization - Before trucks even leave the warehouse, smart technology helps pinpoint and monitor the most efficient travel routes, reducing the number of extra miles (and fuel costs) truckers face.

In short, an IoT-fueled supply chain can pave the way towards greater cost savings for retailers - and more mission-critical retail analytics for managers.

4. Interactive customer insights

woman at a retail store using heat mapping on a tablet device

Smart devices in a retail environment can now gather customer interactions, helping retailers gain insights into behavior, preferences, and trends. Here are some types of data that smart devices can share:

  • Data on foot traffic - via cameras and smart sensors, retailers can see how many customers come in and go out, gaining insight into peak traffic.
  • Heatmap data - can track movement patterns and suggest optimal locations for popular products. Sensors can also share data on dwell time (how long consumers stay in particular areas of the store).
  • Beacon technology - can send location-based notifications to customers' smartphones, with highly personalized ads, one-time promotions, and assistance in finding products.
  • Survey data - can gauge customer satisfaction via touchscreen kiosks or mobile apps.

5. Security analytics for retailers

To this point, we've gathered an impressive list of features, benefits, and data analytics. But for retail businesses, security is an ever-present concern. What data do retailers need most?

Whether it's an IoT-enabled camera (or bank of cameras) - or smart locks that send automated alerts to retailers, today's smart devices are a boon to store owners and managers.

For example, IoT can monitor an electronic article surveillance (EAS) system if a customer tampers with/removes a security tag on a product. Video analytics can help identify suspicious behavior and notify security personnel. Smart equipment can also notify associates about a physical breach.

Smart devices and software can also spot variabilities between expected and actual inventory levels - and notify store owners of potential stockroom thefts.

Lost connection to your store's kiosks or security cameras? Get help from OptConnect.

6. Day-to-day operational data

The benefits of IoT devices don't end with security. Day-to-day operations also improve with help from smart technology.

Think, for example, about a store's HVAC system. Or a grocer's refrigeration equipment.

No retailer wants to deal with unexpected repairs on major systems like these. IoT solutions allow stakeholders to monitor their critical equipment, track energy expenditures, and predict future maintenance needs. Cost savings is just one benefit; customer convenience is another.

IoT sensors can also monitor a store's network of fire alarms, smoke detectors, and sprinkler systems - and alert employees and customers in the event of an emergency.

In addition, some smart equipment can automatically provide compliance and regulatory metrics - like financial regulations for an ATM, or data that reinforces a store's privacy policies on customer data.

7. Internet connectivity status

neo2 router by OptConnect, for cellular connectivity of retail smart equipment and more

Given the impressive array of analytics, today's retailers can gather data on just about anything - but only with a reliable cellular connection. If the Internet goes down, so does real-time data access.

But reliable connectivity isn't guaranteed - which is one reason why the right hardware, software, and data plan matter so much.

To that end, retailers should look for the connectivity devices that match their smart equipment. Some routers work for local area network (LAN) connectivity but not wide area network (WAN) connectivity. Some include Ethernet ports but not Wi-Fi ports. Some rely on just one carrier. If the carrier experiences an outage, there's no failover option.

Peace of mind with plug-and-play functionality

At OptConnect, our routers and antennas are built specifically for IoT devices like kiosks, digital signage, vending machines, and other smart equipment - even food trucks!

With plug-and-play functionality built right in, retailers no longer have to deal with the hassle and inconvenience of coordinating with a local IT group. Since OptConnect devices come with a private network connection, there's no downtime when someone changes a password or updates security settings.

Then there's the added peace of mind that comes from 24/7/365 device monitoring and managed services. No need to worry about what is going on behind the scenes.

Other benefits of OptConnect managed services include:

  • One single source of customer care, anytime
  • Easy installation for virtual plug and play
  • Additional set-up assistance when needed
  • Multiple carriers for added peace of mind (but just one bill)
  • Best available coverage and bandwidth for a given location
  • Options to purchase or lease

With all the smart technology - and smart data - used by retailers, smarter connectivity is a must. Don't put up with iffy local networks or spotty connections.

Instead, make your smart devices and your business thrive with OptConnect products and services.

To learn more, visit our OptConnect retail solutions page.

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